History indicates that there is a general correlation between liberty and a host of desirable outcomes, like wealth, equality, and peace. But the theory underlying the role of liberty in society often sounds mystical, as if liberty is a magical variable that fixes every problem that comes its way.
In many ways, the theory of liberty sounds kind of crazy. Trusting people to act appropriately? Trusting people to act responsibly? Trusting people to not blow each other up when no one is there to tell them otherwise? What could be crazier than that?
But, everyday interactions confirms to each of us that we don’t need the government telling us what to do.* In fact, we all recognize this. We always worry that everyone will start doing some bad thing if the government doesn’t tell them not to. Of course, even when the government tells people to not do something, that never actually prevents them from doing it anyway.
Anyhow, the point in all this is that theory of liberty generally sounds insane to people even though the practice of liberty is tacitly accepted to work quite well. And so, this begs the question: Is libertarian political and economic theory simply an ex post rationalization?
We know that liberty works, for the most part, but we don’t why. And since we’re humans, we generally desire to know why something works. We don’t trust what we can’t explain, and so we seek to explain liberty in order to trust it more.
But the problem seems to be that we don’t really know why liberty works; only that it does. Saying “it just does” is not a satisfactory answer to the question of liberty works, and so we have to rationalize why we do what we do in order to feel secure in what we’re doing.
* I am projecting, of course. I generally don’t go about killing people during the course of my day. And this will probably not change even if the government suddenly decides to legalize murder.